The iconoclast of Italian soccer has disappeared from the pitch.
By all appearances, Antonio Cassano’s time with Sampdoria is over, and yet the separation drags on indefinitely, with both the star forward and the club president attempting to justify themselves in the media.
The ordeal began when Cassano refused to accompany Sampdoria president Riccardo Garrone to an awards ceremony. A heated argument followed at the club headquarters, which resulted in Cassano being dropped from the team's roster ahead of the October 31st match against Cesena.
Since then, Cassano has been on television and spoken with reporters, publicly asking for his team's forgiveness, but Garrone and the Sampdoria board aren't willing to budge.
Cassano’s agent, Giuseppe Bozzo, has of course inserted himself into the fracas and has suggested that the whole incident is being used as a way to get rid of the player. He may be onto something, but of course, it's more complicated than just that.
There is lots of red tape around Cassano's contract. If Sampdoria were to simply terminate the contract, they would lose out on a potential transfer fee, and it's been reported that they would owe millions to Cassano's former employer, Real Madrid.
For now, Sampdoria's official line is that they are waiting to hear from a league arbitration panel, and it remains to be seen what kind of resolution such a process could bring about.
Many thought that Cassano had at last found some stability and maturity at Sampdoria after leaving both Roma and Real Madrid on poor terms, but the jewel of Bari is apparently as prone to outbursts as he ever was.
Is Garrone generally surprised and hurt, or does he just see an opportunity to get out from under an expensive contract? He is surely aware that other teams would be interested in a striker of Cassano’s ability.
Juventus has said that they aren’t interested, but their level of interest might change once a few legal matters are settled. Fiorentina, a club that nearly acquired Cassano last year, is an even more likely destination, and then there is Liverpool, where Roy Hodgson is said to be looking for a dependable forward.
Cassano, whatever his true feelings, isn’t going to make things easy. Over and over he’s said how much he wants to return to play for Sampdoria, even telling a reporter that he would drink gasoline for the team’s forgiveness (a sly reference to the fortune Garrone made in the oil industry).
Sampdoria might have benefited from Cassano's skill in their 0-0 draw today in the Europa League. Instead, the Blucerchiati go on without their star forward, and Cassano goes on without a team.